Friday, September 30, 2016

Genesis 18:1-15 comments; Sarah's doubt

1 ¶  And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; 2  And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, 3  And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: 4  Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: 5  And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said. 6  And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. 7  And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. 8  And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.

    9 ¶  And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent. 10  And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. 11  Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12  Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? 13  And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? 14  Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. 15  Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh.

These three men are appearances or angels of spiritual beings and one of them is God Himself, in the form of pre-incarnate Christ; the Word by which all things were and are created (see Psalm 104:30; Isaiah 48:7; and John 1:1-18).

Abraham tells Sarah to make three cakes from three measures of meal. It is interesting to note that three of the world’s great religions will come from Abraham and Sarah’s offspring; Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Note the corrupting influence of leaven as it is kneaded into three measures of meal in the following verse. Perhaps God is not impressed with the practices of either of these “great” faith traditions in their hypocrisy.

Matthew 13:33  Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.

Luke 12:1  In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

As Abraham has a meal prepared for these men they ask where Sarah is, another question for which they obviously know the answer and one of them makes an important statement. He, clearly the Lord, promises to return unto thee according to the time of life which is a reference to the presence of God’s will in Sarah’s childbirth.

Now it is Sarah’s turn to laugh, as both her and Abraham are now very old and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women meaning she was no longer fertile and no longer menstruating.

The Lord’s response was to make the claim by way of a rhetorical question that nothing was impossible with God and to repeat the certainty of Sarah’s childbirth. Jesus made a similar statement when comparing the difficulty of becoming a believer if one is possessed of wealth.

Mark 10:25  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 26  And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? 27  And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.

Sarah, afraid at being challenged for laughing, denied she laughed but the Lord contradicted her attempt to hide her doubt. Many conservative Christians will deny that they have any doubts about God’s promises, about the truth of the gospel, or even about God’s very existence but God knows what is in your heart. Don’t be angry at the atheist when you yourself have said in your heart at certain times, “how is this possible?”

Mark 9:24  And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

We live in bodies of flesh, assailed by misfortune, disappointments, disease, fleeting joys and pleasures, and then death. Often, we are overcome by the apparent randomness and uncertainty of life. And yet, if we belong to God and are sensitive to His involvement in our moment to moment lives as clearly laid out in the Bible we are assured that His power is real and His promises are true.

Modern Christians have been led to believe by their preachers that if a thing happens like childbirth it is just by a natural process that God started but is not really involved in unless He is asked to intervene and wills to do so. Modern Christians believe that God cannot be involved in the evil that can befall them. They ignore the lessons of the Book of Job and wrench the promises made to Israel out of context and apply them to themselves to their eventual dismay. Or they embrace worldly values, lusts, and pride and insist they have not, harming their faith when things go wrong.
But, if you are honest, speaking to God in prayer and opening your Bible inviting the Lord to speak to you through His words, then you know that nothing is impossible with Him and He will do and has done what He has promised. Don’t pretend you’ve never doubted God as Sarah has here.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Genesis 17:15-27 comments: Abraham laughed

15 ¶  And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. 16  And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. 17  Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? 18  And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee! 19  And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. 20  And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. 21  But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year. 22  And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.

    23 ¶  And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him. 24  And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 25  And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 26  In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son. 27  And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him.

Sarai’s name is now changed to Sarah. She is part of the covenant, the promise. Not only will the son of promise come from Abraham but he will come through her, as well. She will be the mother of nations and kings of people will come from her.

The idea that a 90 year old woman, even in those ancient days when people lived much longer than they typically do now and were youthful much longer than they typically are now, would bear a child was preposterous. Abraham was so overtaken by the idea that he fell on his face and laughed in front of God! He said nothing about his astonishment out loud but then said aloud he hoped that Ishmael, who was already with him, would be the one promised to him.

The phrase said in his heart is used dozens of times to indicate private thoughts. We do not say, “thought in his brain,” when discussing things of a fundamentally private or emotional nature. We use phrases like, “my heart tells me,” or say that someone is kind-hearted.

God then insisted that Sarah would bear a son and that his name would be called Isaac, which means appropriately in the Hebrew, according to Strong’s dictionary, “He laughs.” God knows what you think as this is stated several times in the Bible from Genesis 6:5; 1Chronicles 28:9; Job 42:2; Psalm 94:11; Psalm 139:2; etc. Note that God stated he established His covenant with Isaac.

Ishmael will be taken care of and this is part of God’s grace and kindness in spite of the circumstances under which Ishmael was conceived. But, God reinforces that the covenant will be executed through Isaac. Abraham then takes Ishmael and all of the men of his household regardless of where they were from and circumcises them.

The word stranger is used to denote a foreigner, an alien to a people, who lives among that people.

Genesis 15:13  And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;

Genesis 17:12  And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.

Leviticus 24:22  Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the LORD your God.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Genesis 17:7-14 comments: an everlasting possession

7 ¶  And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. 8  And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. 9  And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. 10  This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. 11  And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. 12  And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed. 13  He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14  And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.

The Holy Spirit has left us two meanings to this covenant, both wrapped up in the Jews and in the Messiah, who is Christ. First, the covenant is to Abraham’s descendants through Isaac. This is a grant of land from which God’s reconciliation of mankind throughout the earth is to begin. As you probably have figured out what God has been doing is directed toward this reconciliation of the breach between man and God caused by Adam and Eve, instigated by Satan, driven by the fallen sons of God, and perpetuated by Noah’s descendants.

The second meaning is that this reconciliation will be completed in Christ. The covenant that God made with Himself is a covenant between the two parts of God the Bible knows as God the Father, the soul and seat of self-identity and will of God, and the Son of God, the visible image, the body of God who is offered for us as payment for our sin against God that separated us from Him. Two parts of God making a covenant for the purpose of reconciling man to God as the Law given to Moses later will show man that his own righteousness is sorely lacking. This promise of reconciliation with man and this covenant with the Jews were not erased by their failure as it preceded the Law and was dependent not on their success or goodness but on God’s goodness and mercy.

Galatians 3:13  Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: 14  That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. 15  Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. 16  Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. 17  And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. 18  For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

This absolute covenant represents God’s promise to man through Christ binding man and God together by a promise made by God and satisfied by God, not we ourselves. In Christ, God erased the difference between Jew and non-Jew, called Gentiles or Greeks in the Bible, and made one new person in the church, the body of Christ. Both in this one new man are reconciled to God by the Cross at Calvary.

Ephesians 2:11 ¶  Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12  That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13  But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

    14 ¶  For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15  Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16  And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17  And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18  For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19  Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20  And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21  In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22  In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

As the sign of the Jews, which the Hebrews became to be called, receiving this covenant they accepted circumcision. In like manner the receiving of God’s promise of reconciliation for the church is being born again by the Spirit and having God the Father, the Son of God, and the Holy Ghost indwelling man by the Spirit of God. It is the proof and the deposit on our eternal inheritance. If you are not born again you have no part in it no matter what your philosophy.

Ephesians 1:10  That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: 11  In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12  That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13  In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14  Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

Notice then the similarity between the God putting Abraham to sleep and making the deal with Himself and the Cross and the Empty Tomb whereby salvation was delivered with man playing no part. The proof of the receipt was Abraham accepting circumcision in the flesh and the Christian receiving the Holy Spirit by being born again in which a spiritual circumcision is performed by God where the sins of the flesh do not affect the destiny of the soul.

Colossians 2:11  In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: 12  Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

Where the Jews were concerned their signs were physical. The church bears spiritual, invisible marks.

Baptism is a symbol, a type, representing, not circumcision but Christ’s burial and resurrection, a symbol acting out the gospel.

As there are two circumcisions; one physical for the Jew and one spiritual for the church, there are two baptisms; one of national confession of sin and repentance for the Jews and one for symbolizing Christ’s burial and resurrection for the Christian as stated in the passage above from Colossians 2.

Baptism as a public confession and repentance of sin for the Jews is shown here;

Matthew 3:5  Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, 6  And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.

Notice here in Acts where the Jews engaged in public baptism for the sin of murdering their Messiah and then received the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:36  Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.37 ¶  Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38  Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Then, when Gentiles are embraced the action is reversed and the Holy Ghost is received before baptism.

Acts 10:47  Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?

So, two circumcisions, one Jewish (Hebrew) and one Christian. Two baptisms, one Jewish and one Christian, both signifying different agreements.

The promise of the land is an everlasting covenant for an everlasting possession. The promise of eternal life is an everlasting inheritance, as well, for the Jewish and Gentile believer in Christ.

Romans 6:23  For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

God has given Abraham title to a land he does not currently possess, but his descendants will.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Genesis 17:1-6 comments: God reaffirms the covenant

1 ¶  And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. 2  And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. 3  And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,

    4 ¶  As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. 5  Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. 6  And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.

Thirteen years after Ishmael is born God appeared to Abram. To be perfect is be finished or completed.

2Chronicles 8:16  Now all the work of Solomon was prepared unto the day of the foundation of the house of the LORD, and until it was finished. So the house of the LORD was perfected.

It is to be complete in all the will of God.

Col 4:12  Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.

A perfect man is an upright man, fearing God and avoiding evil.

Job 1:1  There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.

He seeks to be like God, to hold close the principles of God as expressed in the popularly called Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 5:48  Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

God reaffirms His covenant with Himself regarding Abram. He will make Abram the father of many nations. Nations in the Bible are not like the modern nation-state. The implication is more of an ethnic group, a tribe, or a people. Abraham will be the physical progenitor of the Arabs, the Jews, Midianites, and others. But, we will see eventually that he gives everything he has to Isaac, the child of promise.

Abram’s name is changed to Abraham which means, read the text, father of many nations. Kings will come from him.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Genesis 16: 7-16 comments: God blesses Hagar

    7 ¶  And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur. 8  And he said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai. 9  And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.

    10 ¶  And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude. 11  And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction. 12  And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren. 13  And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me? 14  Wherefore the well was called Beerlahairoi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.

    15 ¶  And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son’s name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael. 16  And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram.

The angel of the Lord is the presence of the Lord in a form found in many places in the Bible narrative.

Man and woman have three parts to them, as does God.

1Thessalonians 5:23  And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

[Notice the union with and uniting body, soul, spirit as part of one person.]

Matthew 28:19  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

2Corinthians 13:14  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.

1John 5:7  For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the physical image of God, the body of God.

Colossians 1:15  Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

Hebrews 1:3  Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

John 14:9  Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?

Three parts to one God with one will, not three individual persons with separate wills.

Deuteronomy 6:4  Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:

John 10:30  I and my Father are one.

Christ is the appearance of God; the angel of the Lord, His presence.

Isaiah 63:9  In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.

Galatians 4:14  And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. [Note that even typically links two things that are identical as in I, even I in nineteen verses.]

Who led the Hebrews out of Egypt.

Judges 2:1 ¶  And an angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you.

God asking questions which He obviously knows the answer to is a common thread in the Bible beginning with asking Adam and Eve where they were when they hid after their sin.

The Lord told Hagar to return. Obviously, He would make the situation bearable. If we are obedient to God He can make even our enemies to be at peace with us.

Proverbs 16:7  When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.

God promises Hagar a great multitude of progeny. In this, God has blessed her in a way the people of that time would understand more than we do now. She must feel that God has had great mercy on her. God also promises to give Hagar a son to be named Ishmael, meaning “God will hear.” He will be tribal, dwelling in the presence of his brethren, and violent, constantly quarrelling and warring against those around him. This is evident in history and one reason why it was so hard to unite the Arab tribes against the Turks during World War One.

The place where God visited Hagar is memorialized. Abram is 86 years old when Hagar, the Egyptian, bears Ishmael.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Genesis 16:4-6 comments: Hagar runs away

4 ¶  And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes. 5  And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee. 6  But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face.

Abram knew what God had promised him. But, at the urging of his wife he did not wait on God to provide what was promised in God’s own time. This is understandable from a human perspective. Abram knew what the promise was but he did not know how God was going to accomplish it. By going ahead of God he caused emotional turmoil in his own family and thousands of years of political struggle, most notably manifesting itself in the struggles in the Middle East in the last hundred years. The offspring of this union between God’s man and this Egyptian servant-woman will be who the Muslims consider to be their progenitor, an ancestor of Mohammed and the father of the Arab peoples.

Sarai is blaming Abram for Hagar’s contempt for her as now Hagar has done something that Sarai could not. She has conceived a child. Abram, lacking in moral courage and a sense of responsibility from our perspective, like Adam, tries to remedy this situation by affording Sarai the opportunity to get revenge by mistreating Hagar for the perceived wrong which is hers and Abram’s fault. Hagar is a servant. She had no power to deny either Sarai or Abram. If anything she is the victim in this. But, now she will suffer unless God intervenes, which He does.

Hagar does the only thing she can do at this point, pregnant and powerless. She runs away.

God permits man to exercise his free will even to evil, to great evil I might add. God worked out the successful completion of His will taking into account man’s proclivity to violence, malice, and evil. Jesus will tell us that offences will come, they must come, but woe to him through whom they come. (Matthew 18:7; Luke 17:1). Even God’s people are fully capable of doing wrong but they are not capable of thwarting God’s will. He will permit what He will permit and block what He will block.

We often are amazed and disturbed at stories we hear. A child is born to worthless parents who abuse him or her and raise them without nurture and love. That child grows up to be a drug-addicted adult and then dies of a heart attack. All seems to be lost, randomness seems to be reality, and nothing makes sense to us. But, God told us through the story of Job that a great many bad things can be done to perfectly unblameable or even good people and we may never know, in this life, the reason. We are to trust God, He has it under control. Understanding that God is involved in every detail of existence, good or evil, and that He is in control, is very important Theology 101. It is difficult to understand when genocide is committed or a child is abused. But, the Bible makes it clear, abundantly, that somehow, in a way we will probably not understand, God works out His will through the chaos, man’s malice, and man’s heart-wrenching cruelty.

As Job said that he did nothing wrong to deserve what happened to him and God did not argue with that, so we must understand when an injustice is being done to us, God will work this out. We can and must do the right thing, as we know it to be, as that is our part. We can, if possible, remove ourselves from a bad situation, have a malefactor brought to justice, or defend our persons from attack, again, if possible. But, we must remember that God is in control. Trust Him. Expect Him to work things out. In the end, it is to be for His glory, not for our immediate benefit. We expect things to be made clear in eternity, or perhaps even to be forgotten as greater and more magnificent things await us than the sufferings we might endure here. But, God is in control, as we will soon see here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Genesis 16:1-3 comments: Hagar given to Abram by Sarai

1 ¶  Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. 2  And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. 3  And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.

Sarai acknowledges that her not having children is God’s will at that point. God has restrained her from having a child. How many modern Christian women acknowledge God’s hand in something like this? Since the time of Isaac Newton, Christians have reduced God to the First Cause of things only and do not typically acknowledge His hand in the fundamental processes of life. The modernist’s watchmaker God who winds things up and stands back, available perhaps to wind it if it runs down or correct the time if in error, is not the God of the Bible. Any honest reading of the Bible, in particular, the Book of Job, will show us that God is directly involved in the daily processes of our lives and life’s complexity goes beyond its existence to its moment-by-moment function. If God can be likened to a watchmaker then He is a watchmaker that not only built the clock but moves the hands.

At this point in the narrative we could understand if the promise that God made to Abram, that a great people would come from him, did not include Sarai. But, she is part of the promise as we will find out. Still, as we will see later in Jacob’s life, a woman of substance in those days might regard children coming from her personal servant as her own.(43) This never worked very well emotionally as jealousy and a sense of being held in contempt would rise up in these situations where the patriarch afforded himself intimacy with a servant woman.

Sarai may not have known about the promises made to Abram although I doubt he kept her in the dark. But, if she knew what God had promised to Abram, here is a classic example of going ahead of God. We need to wait on God and not try to improve on His plans and His will. God will do a thing in His own time and our impatience and ego can cause a world of trouble for us when we try to push ahead without God. Sarai is going to “help” God. This is an unfortunate mistake.

Sarai has given her servant, Hagar, to Abram for the purpose of producing a child. We would rightfully regard this as wicked and sin today but remember the culture that Abram and Sarai were brought out of and understand that our veneer of Christianity, even civilization, is very thin. God is merciful, though, and His grace abounds all through the Bible as we will see.

Here, also, we see how the concept of wife is bound to sexual intimacy and we understand the meaning of go in unto my maid.

(43) This shows one of the great differences between slavery and servanthood in the world of the Bible and that of Antebellum (Pre-Civil War) America. The thousands of sexually abused slave girls in America forced to bear their masters’ offspring was never viewed by the unfortunate wife of the slaveowner as representing her. In fact, there are diaries of the wives of slaveowners which revealed that those women were heartbroken over the culturally accepted adulteries they had to suffer.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Genesis 15:17-21 comments: the Promised Land

17 ¶  And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. 18  In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: 19  The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, 20  And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, 21  And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.

The geography of the grant of land given by God to the Hebrews is very interesting and has an impact today on international events. God, in the symbols of a smoking furnace and a burning lamp (see Deuteronomy 4:24; 9:3; and Hebrews 12:29 among many other passages] passed between the pieces of animals establishing the covenant with Himself to grant this land to Abram’s descendants so it was not dependent upon any action of Abram other than believing and receiving. This is not unlike salvation from an eternity of agony in a place described as a lake of fire. God provides this to anyone who receives His visible image, Christ, as Himself, believing the gospel.

From the river of Egypt, the Nile river, to the Euphrates river, the land boundary of the territory promised to Israel, to be realized in the millennial reign of Christ, is pretty extensive if you look at a map. It is the seat of Christ’s rule from Jerusalem in the millennium, during which He will reign for a thousand years because, for one reason, Paul said;

Galatians 3:16  Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.

We know Christ will physically rule on earth for a thousand years as John said.

Revelation 20:4  And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. …6  Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

During His reign the Jewish people will occupy the earth and the promise of this land grant will be fully realized.

Zechariah 8:20  Thus saith the LORD of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities: 21  And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts: I will go also. 22  Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD. 23  Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.

In a prophecy of a time after Christ God said He will bring the remnant of Israel home. See this great prophecy in Isaiah, chapter 11.

Isaiah 11:1 ¶  And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: 2  And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; 3  And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: 4  But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. 5  And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. 6  The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. 7  And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8  And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. 9  They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.10 ¶  And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious. [see Romans 15:12; Revelation 22:16] 11  And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. 12  And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

The nation of Israel, created by human political action and struggle, will always face adversity, even near extinction under the persecution of the Beast of Revelation, until Christ returns. But, when He returns to rule the promise will be realized.

Revelation 11:15  And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Genesis 15:12-16 comments: four hundred years of suffering

12 ¶  And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him. 13  And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; 14  And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. 15  And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. 16  But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.


God is going to make this covenant with Himself and it is important that Abram have nothing to do with this part. He puts Abram to sleep and it is a deeper sleep than Abram had ever known. It is called an horror of great darkness. God put Adam to sleep when He created Eve.

Genesis 2:21 ¶  And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;

But, think of the deep sleep you are in within a nightmare where you see things so clearly but cannot move or respond and feel so utterly helpless. Job’s friend, Eliphaz, speaks of frightening visions in sleep, in Job, chapter 4, and Daniel in chapter 10 of that book, as well. Fear and dread, horror, overwhelm a helpless Abram who is in a deep sleep and unable to perform any part of this covenant now.

We are saved by God’s covenant and, by the cross, He has accomplished both parts of it. Our will has no part in our being saved.

John 1:13  Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

God tells Abram that his seed will be servants in a foreign land, which we know to be Egypt. They will be afflicted for four hundred years and will serve the people of that land. This is an about, not an exact 400 years, ten months, 23 days, and two hours type of statement.

Exodus 12:40  Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.

And then, Luke recounting what Stephen said, alluding to what Moses had written from God’s words;

Acts 7:6  And God spake on this wise, That his seed should sojourn in a strange land; and that they should bring them into bondage, and entreat them evil four hundred years.

If I wrote you a lesson that said, “in the thousand years since the Norman invasion of England,” and then, in the lesson later wrote, “in the nine hundred and fifty years since 1066, when William the Conqueror defeated King Harold at Hastings,” would that be a contradiction or would you understand what I said as meaning the same thing?

Here is Paul referring to this bondage bracketed between the covenant and the giving of the Law.

Galatians 3:17  And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.

Rabbis have written that the affliction begins when Ishmael, the offspring of Abram and Hagar, an Egyptian, begins to persecute Isaac, the son of the promise. They regarded the four hundred years to start from that point.

God also tells Abram that four generations will come into being in Egypt before returning to the land that is promised, The Promised Land of Canaan. For instance, Levi, Jacob’s son, and his son, Kohath, and his son, Amram, and his son, Moses. These were four generations that sojourned in Egypt. It is then important to see that God is talking about two different things; four hundred years of affliction and four generations in a foreign land. As the Bible clearly states in Exodus the Hebrews come out of Egypt with a great deal of wealth given to them freely by the Egyptians.

In a parallel to the Christian’s life we see that Abram’s offspring must suffer before they can reign. This is a doctrine clearly enunciated in Paul’s letters to Christians, as it was reflected in Jesus’ ministry on earth; the cross before the crown. If you read the account in Matthew and Luke of Satan’s temptation of Christ you will see that Satan tried to reverse the order. (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13).

There is a clear doctrine set forth here that shows that God will put up with just so much foolishness from a people before he ‘drops the hammer’ in a manner of speaking. The Hebrews are being built as a people nursed in Egypt while the inhabitants of Canaan grow more and more wicked and when the right time comes God will cause His judgment on Canaan to come about. Later, He will give Israel hundreds of years to ‘get right’ before He removes them from the land.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Genesis 15:7-11 comments: the covenant, a deposit on the promise

7 ¶  And he said unto him, I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it. 8  And he said, Lord GOD, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? 9  And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon. 10  And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not. 11  And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away.

God brings up another promise that He made to Abram, the inheritance of the land of Canaan. God took Abram out of Ur of the Chaldees. Remember, most of the time the ch sound is like a k. The Chaldeans or Chaldees were a root ethnic tribe of Babylonia and were dominant for a period of time. Some priests of Babylon were identified as being Chaldean. (see Ezra 5:12; Daniel 2:10) But, again Abram is challenging God and demands to know what assurance he can be given that will guarantee this promised inheritance.

God promised to save the Christian from an eternity of agony and suffering, God’s response to, His judgment on, a rebellious humanity.

Acts 16:31  And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

Romans 10:9  That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11  For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12 ¶  For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

God coming to indwell a person by the vehicle of the Holy Spirit is the deposit, the earnest money, the guarantee of that promise of salvation.

Ephesians 1:13  In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

14  Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

Any Christianity or Christian philosophy without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a pathetic joke, a dangerous delusion, and stumbling block to sanity. Without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit the Christian faith is reduced to humanistic drivel, man aspiring to please a God he does not or cannot know personally. It then becomes a political slogan, a cultural expression, a way to keep the masses down, or a justification to dominate others.

 The Holy Spirit’s indwelling, the fruit it produces in the Christian as listed in Galatians 5:22-24, and the religion it demands as an expression of your faith as explained in James 1:27 and 1John 2:15-17, are part of the foundations of proof that this indwelling is real. Being born again of the Spirit is the proof we have that God’s promises in Christ are real to us as this upcoming ritual is the deposit, the earnest, so to speak, of God’s promise to Abram.

Abram obeys God and performs the first part of the ceremony around making a covenant.

Jeremiah 34:18  And I will give the men that have transgressed my covenant, which have not performed the words of the covenant which they had made before me, when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof, 19  The princes of Judah, and the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs, and the priests, and all the people of the land, which passed between the parts of the calf;

Writers, both Jewish and Christian, have different opinions about the significance of the particular animals used. The she goat might represent the Law given to Moses later.

Numbers 15:27  And if any soul sin through ignorance, then he shall bring a she goat of the first year for a sin offering.

The ram might represent salvation through faith in Christ as Abram, then named Abraham, tells his son, Issac, in a prophecy that points forward to Christ;

Genesis 22:8  And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.

And a ram was made available in place of Issac;

Genesis 22:13  And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

The turtledove and the pigeon, used for purification, are also part of this blood covenant.

Leviticus 12:6  And when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest:

Leviticus 17:11  For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.

But, regardless of the purpose of those creatures other than the heifer, which purpose scholars are not sure of, this covenant was understood by the people of the ancient world as the passage in Jeremiah indicates.

Fowls of the air are symbols also of the Devil (see the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4 as just one example) so there is significance in Abram’s part of this covenant, in his obedience first, and also in his keeping corruption from his part. We could make sermons about this and many have been made about keeping things of evil from your worship of God; influences, worldly values, and carnality fluttering around your solemn willingness to wait on, obey, and follow the Lord Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Genesis 15:2-6 comments: Abram's complaint

2 ¶  And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? 3  And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. 4  And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. 5  And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. 6  And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

Abram poses the impertinent question of what can God give him of value since he has been denied a child. God’s plan is greater than Abram, in his complaint, can imagine. He will not only give Abram what Abram desires; an heir, but God intends to give him a great heritage, more than he can imagine.

God challenges Abram to count (tell as in a bank teller) the stars if he can, as the number of his descendants shall be like the number of stars.

Up until the invention of the telescope mankind was able to count only a few thousand stars. However, God likens their number to the number of particles of sand on the sea shore. This is not an exact numerical comparison but an equivalence, meaning the numbers are similar, an amount too great for a man to number.

Hebrews 11:12  Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.

However, it is not so with God. He can count them and has names for every one. This is one of those amazing facts about how great the God who created the universe and who orders all matter, energy, space, and time is.

Psalm 147:4  He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Genesis 15:1 comments; Abram's reward

1 ¶  After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.

God appeared to people in different ways. There is a vision, as in this verse and elsewhere where the person is in a trance but fully awake and God has taken over the person’s consciousness. He spoke to Samuel, Isaiah, Nathan the prophet, Ezekiel, Ananias of Damascus, Peter, Paul, and others in this way.

Numbers 12:6  And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.

Numbers 24:4  He hath said, which heard the words of God, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open:

He also appeared as an angel of the Lord, with an angel being a presence, something tangible you could interact with, the preincarnate Word, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 63:9  In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.

Judges 2:1  And an angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you.

Judges 13;21  But the angel of the LORD did no more appear to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was an angel of the LORD. 22  And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God.

God also appeared in a dream, as to Solomon.

1Kings 3:5  In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee…15a  And Solomon awoke; and, behold, it was a dream…

God is Abram’s reward. This is in contrast to the puny reward the king of Sodom would give him. We are called to look for our reward from heaven rather than from the world of men. This is a very difficult exercise of faith because we are taught from our earliest age of understanding to look for some kindness or boon at the hand of man, rather than God. This is so obvious when we are excited at our paycheck or even a trophy but oblivious to God’s deliverance, mercy, and blessings throughout the week as they happen.

The Lord is Abram’s protection, his defender, and his reward. He needs no other. It is God who delivered him and God who made him wealthy and has given him great success.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Genesis 14:21-24 comments: accepting no reward of evil

21 And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself. 22 And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth, 23 That I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich: 24 Save only that which the young men have eaten, and the portion of the men which went with me, Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre; let them take their portion.

Abram is not going to let the king of Sodom make himself Abram’s benefactor. He will owe nothing to this king. This is a good lesson, not to enrich oneself by the kindness of someone or something evil. One might make a sermon about ‘generosity’ of the Devil and what the consequences of accepting a reward at his hands might be. Even if the king of Sodom, most likely a high priest of his own god, had good intentions, Abram was not going to put himself in the position of having to be grateful to him.

A reward carried with it some important considerations. To accept a reward from a king implied an understanding of loyalty to that king.

Job 7:2  As a servant earnestly desireth the shadow, and as an hireling looketh for the reward of his work:

As much as this king of Sodom would have liked to have someone as wealthy and powerful as Abram beholden to him, perhaps even out of fear, Abram, the friend of God, would not permit such a thing.

 The mercy and grace of God will be Abram’s reward in the very next chapter. He needed no bounty from a human king, especially one who worshipped devils in all likelihood. In the American business culture of Christianity it does not matter who rewards me as long as I get one. The reward is the object and the character and condition of the granter of the reward is irrelevant. This is characteristic of even the most conservative churches whose preachers announce from the pulpit how wicked and Godless the government is, all the while accepting tax breaks and any benefit they or their congregation can get from that same wicked government, accepting rewards from the king of Sodom. Abram would be appalled.

Three confederates only are mentioned but in this method of writing referring to the leadership can also imply men following. Clearly you don’t believe that only the kings mentioned earlier who attacked Sodom and Gomorrah were present but that they had an army with them. Common sense tells us that the reference to Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre does not mean that they, too, would not have had their own servants armed and battle ready.